How wet is too wet?- Mtbr.com
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  1. #1
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    How wet is too wet?

    We got a little rain last night, but our trails are very rocky/gravely so they dry pretty well. That said, they are clearly marked to ride only when dry.

    Today I started out on my ride conscious that I may need to turn around if it was too muddy. I noticed I was picking up a little mud/dirt, but leaving essentially no track on the ground. See pictures of my tires.

    Later I saw a few other riders that shared my opinion that the conditions were dry enough. But what about next time when it's a little wetter.... Where is the threshold?

    Our trails are pretty low traffic so there are many normal days where I don't see anyone else, so I can't really use the judgement of others to guide me.

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  2. #2
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    if there is no trail steward or volunteer who sort of "runs" the trails, the decision is up to you.

    I live in Ohio, and we have rain almost every day of the year...sort of.

    On our "official" maintained trails, I use pretty much the same judgment you did. If you are not leaving marks/ruts, and it seems like the trail surface drains well, I ride. If the trail in your pics is considered "wet", this would be a dream situation here!!! Those are definitely not wet.

    Also, all of those trails are usually checked by a COMBO member and then updated on MTB Project app as to whether they are closed or not. You should get that app if you don't have it. It allows the user to make trail reports as well, which will help people make their decisions

    Sadly, a lot of people either don't use the app, or don't care, and they poach the trails when they are too wet.

    Around here, we also have some unofficial "local yokel" trails that we blazed back in the 70's, and we will do mud runs on those b/c it doesn't matter if they get trashed. Nature cleans and alters them pretty well, which is cool. They are ever evolving.
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  3. #3
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  4. #4
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    I ride in the PNW and when it rains, it pours. I've grown accustomed to riding on wet roots and rocks when it's 30 degrees outside in the middle of winter. My best recommendation is to use your own judgment when riding in wet conditions. Dropping air pressure a little bit can help depending on the trails you are riding. Keeping your skill level and confidence in check is also another great thing to consider when conditions feel less than ideal for you.
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  5. #5
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    If I think I'll have to exert more effort than wiping the frame with a rag after the ride, it's too wet.

  6. #6
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    No hard and fast rule on that one. It is entirely area specific.

    The way I look at if the it the are so terrible that you cannot ride anywhere normal speed then it is probably too wet.
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  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by str8edgMTBMXer View Post
    if there is no trail steward or volunteer who sort of "runs" the trails, the decision is up to you.

    I live in Ohio, and we have rain almost every day of the year...sort of.

    On our "official" maintained trails, I use pretty much the same judgment you did. If you are not leaving marks/ruts, and it seems like the trail surface drains well, I ride. If the trail in your pics is considered "wet", this would be a dream situation here!!! Those are definitely not wet.

    Also, all of those trails are usually checked by a COMBO member and then updated on MTB Project app as to whether they are closed or not. You should get that app if you don't have it. It allows the user to make trail reports as well, which will help people make their decisions

    Sadly, a lot of people either don't use the app, or don't care, and they poach the trails when they are too wet.

    Around here, we also have some unofficial "local yokel" trails that we blazed back in the 70's, and we will do mud runs on those b/c it doesn't matter if they get trashed. Nature cleans and alters them pretty well, which is cool. They are ever evolving.
    I have MTB project and use it occasionally, but there are very few status updates for our trails, and I get the impression that "closures" are based on weather data, not based on a knowledgeable person inspecting the trail. Is that correct?



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  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by Fishwiz View Post
    I have MTB project and use it occasionally, but there are very few status updates for our trails, and I get the impression that "closures" are based on weather data, not based on a knowledgeable person inspecting the trail. Is that correct?



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    not in our case. I mean, we all know how our topography drains and how the dirt reacts, but in our specific case there are a few guys who will actually ride the trail first thing in the morning - especially on weekends - and then report. There is a decent sized group of volunteers and trail regulars who also update the reports.

    Some of our trails drain better than others, so the regular riders know how to guess the trail availability, but the noobs, and visitors don't have that same knowledge - I didn't when I was a noob - but I do now.

    And, in one of our trail's cases, they have done TONS of drainage improvements which now allows it to be open a lot sooner after rains than in the past.

    In your case, you guys probably have to take on that role of the person who posts the conditions if you want to start something "official".

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  9. #9
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    Hero dirt or mud? A little moisture to most dirt helps in traction and the experience. I think itís common sense that will tell you where that fine line is.

    Not all dirt is created equal. Learn your dirt and the point in which it turns from heaven to hell.
    Quote Originally Posted by mileslong View Post
    I passionately remove rocks and corners and other stuff I find too hard to ride.

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by TylerVernon View Post
    If I think I'll have to exert more effort than wiping the frame with a rag after the ride, it's too wet.
    man, using that parameter here in Ohio, we would never get to ride...ever!!

    Quote Originally Posted by LMN View Post
    No hard and fast rule on that one. It is entirely area specific.

    The way I look at if the it the are so terrible that you cannot ride anywhere normal speed then it is probably too wet.
    I use this sometimes, but I personally like the "am i leaving a rut" parameter beter since I am old, fat, and naturally slow
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  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by str8edgMTBMXer View Post
    not in our case. I mean, we all know how our topography drains and how the dirt reacts, but in our specific case there are a few guys who will actually ride the trail first thing in the morning - especially on weekends - and then report. There is a decent sized group of volunteers and trail regulars who also update the reports.

    Some of our trails drain better than others, so the regular riders know how to guess the trail availability, but the noobs, and visitors don't have that same knowledge - I didn't when I was a noob - but I do now.

    And, in one of our trail's cases, they have done TONS of drainage improvements which now allows it to be open a lot sooner after rains than in the past.

    In your case, you guys probably have to take on that role of the person who posts the conditions if you want to start something "official".

    Where do you ride?
    I'm riding in/near Great Falls, MT

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  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by DIRTJUNKIE View Post
    Hero dirt or mud? A little moisture to most dirt helps in traction and the experience. I think itís common sense that will tell you where that fine line is.

    Not all dirt is created equal. Learn your dirt and the point in which it turns from heaven to hell.
    As my ride progressed today, it became clear that it was much more like hero dirt than mud and the couple other riders I met seemed to agree (although one complained it was a little slow).

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  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by Fishwiz View Post
    How wet is too wet?
    Three.

    If you are leaving a track/divots/ruts, then it's too wet. If the local trail manager/organization has additional guidance, then go off that, but I always assume if I'm leaving a trace, that it's not kosher. In my neck of the woods, in the spring, early riders leave ruts that stay all summer long. In the actual summer though, the trails are hard and can be ridden in the rain without fear of causing further damage. In some cases, they get too slick due to the rain on the hard surface. Had a race today, rained this morning all before the race.

    How wet is too wet?-106308618_10102082758228008_4768980973994439010_n.jpg
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  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by Battery View Post
    I ride in the PNW and when it rains, it pours. I've grown accustomed to riding on wet roots and rocks when it's 30 degrees outside in the middle of winter. My best recommendation is to use your own judgment when riding in wet conditions. Dropping air pressure a little bit can help depending on the trails you are riding. Keeping your skill level and confidence in check is also another great thing to consider when conditions feel less than ideal for you.
    This. When I lived in western Oregon, some trails held icy puddles (Browns Camp) but otherwise drained well. Just north of me was the worst clay ever (Hagg Lake). One ride with Magura rim brakes in that stuff was enough.
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  15. #15
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    It really depends on the location.
    Back in Indiana, things turned to peanut butter pretty quickly.
    North Idaho, not so much.

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  16. #16
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    here in northern Ca [foothills] you ride regardless, most of the trails have been here 100+ years and we ride rain or shine.

    I think OP was fine to ride

  17. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by Fishwiz View Post
    I have MTB project and use it occasionally, but there are very few status updates for our trails, and I get the impression that "closures" are based on weather data, not based on a knowledgeable person inspecting the trail. Is that correct?



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    Lots of clay around there, especially on the river trails. If itís too wet, thereís no mistaking it.

    Quote Originally Posted by Fishwiz View Post
    I'm riding in/near Great Falls, MT

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    Youíd probably have better luck with Trailforks. It has wider adoption in Montana, IME.

  18. #18
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    Wow,
    For me it's too muddy when my wheels no longer go around.

  19. #19
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    From the pics, that dirt doesn't look bad at all. Might be some shaded and low spots where the soil consistency is different and water has pooled up that could be avoided, but it's all up to your discretion. Don't want to take the trail with you and spread seeds of invasive species or whatever.

    Technically, a responsible enough person should leave the place in no worse shape as they found it in. Some might argue that the rain and wind done worse erosion without them, but that's no excuse to not do something to "give and take", rather than "take and take".
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  20. #20
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    A lot of effort has gone into making my favorite trail fast draining without spots to hold water. Nobody goes on it when its wet. It can be tricky in the winter and spring. If it freezes at night you can ride it until the sun starts to warm it up. It's not wet til then. You have to go early.

  21. #21
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    How wet is too wet?-dirty.jpg

    Definitely area-dependant, but there's no such thing as "too wet" where I live.

  22. #22
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    Didn't Bon Jovi or Poison have a record called "How Wet is Too Wet?"

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  23. #23
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    Quote Originally Posted by Scott O View Post
    Didn't Bon Jovi or Poison have a record called "How Wet is Too Wet?"

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    Bon Jovi, Slippery When Wet.
    Quote Originally Posted by mileslong View Post
    I passionately remove rocks and corners and other stuff I find too hard to ride.

  24. #24
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    riding wet, muddy trails in central Texas is an offense punishable by death. if you've not ridden here, you would not understand how bad it is. we have nothing you would call "top soil" or "loam." it's just rock and some dusty material that turns to a peanut butter like substance when wet. if you ride on this kind of dirt, any size tire sinks in an leaves a deep rut that hardens like concrete when it dries. it also sticks to your tires and cakes up your bike so badly that, if you try to ride it (I've done this once before I knew better), your bike weighs an extra 30 pounds and stops moving.

    it does not rain a ton here, so we all know to just wait 24-48 hours after a rain to touch the trails at all. some riders use post-rain events to do trail work or you stick to riding a one of the few places that drain better.

  25. #25
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    It really depends on the particular area, and the particular trail - soil conditions can vary a lot even within an area. We have a few trails that are more clay, that deteriorate more when ridden in the wet. We also have some trails that ride really well in the wet, and if there are greasy muddy sections then those smooth out beautifully when ridden as they dry - even if someone left ruts in them. I've done way more than my share of trail building and trail maintenance and I recommend that people check trailforks reports to see what is riding well, what rides well in the wet in general, and what might be too wet to ride. But in general - go ride your bike, just be smart about it.

    I do think that, in our area, the trails to avoid in the wet tend to be those with built up dirt features like jumps and berms because those aren't going to rebuild themselves. On the other hand, some more natural trails tend to have more character with some wet riding. We have people here doing unauthorized root removal on trails, so I guess some riding in the wet helps to expose a few more roots over time.

    Yesterday we rode the morning after a significant rainstorm and it rained a bit while we rode and some trails were absolutely mint - one in particular had the best climbing traction I've seen on it all year. I'm sure there were some people seeing riders on the way to the trailhead losing their minds thinking we were ruining the trails.

  26. #26
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    Good job!

    My rule is "if you leave anything deeper than a waffle print, its too wet". For me this applies to all situations except snow.

    My rule is due to (1) I hate cleaning muddy bikes and replacing parts due to mud. I got my mud cleaning, hub repacking certification back in the summer of '93. (2) I have participated in trail maintenance. It's back breaking, tough work, all while being swarmed by black flies and mosquitos. I understand and appreciate the time required to build/maintain singletrack. (3) Slippery trails increase the risk of injury. I'm risk averse and will frequently walk any section I'm not into. This doesn't mean I'm unable to ride it, it just means the risk did not out weigh the reward on that particular occasion.

  27. #27
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    Quote Originally Posted by mack_turtle View Post
    an offense punishable by death
    Didn't Metallica or Megadeath have an album of that name?

  28. #28
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    Quote Originally Posted by Fishwiz View Post
    I have MTB project and use it occasionally, but there are very few status updates for our trails, and I get the impression that "closures" are based on weather data, not based on a knowledgeable person inspecting the trail. Is that correct?
    Depends on how locals in your area handle it. When I lived in Indiana, you could fairly reasonably pre-emptively mark trail status based on weather reports. Trails would take longer to dry out after a rain event early in the season than they would midsummer, but the soil consistency was such that if they got wet enough, you knew they'd turn to peanut butter clay pretty quick.

    Where I live now, weather events are oftentimes so spotty that you can't do this wholesale. You can have what looks like a solid band of storms that will dissipate as soon as they hit a mountain...or not. Or they can pop up in a tiny spot and dump 5" of rain in a couple hours. There's a decent clay content in the soil, but quite a few trails are pretty rocky, and a number have a high content of decomposed granite. They all behave a little differently, so you can't predict it.

    Some areas have begun closing the trails based on predicted high rainfall events (or persistently wet periods) because of the extremely high levels of traffic on the trail system. Other areas here barely close for anything. Some areas are nearly always wet (temperate rainforest type situations) and others are MUCH drier.

    Quote Originally Posted by bingemtbr View Post
    My rule is "if you leave anything deeper than a waffle print, its too wet". For me this applies to all situations except snow.

    My rule is due to (1) I hate cleaning muddy bikes and replacing parts due to mud. I got my mud cleaning, hub repacking certification back in the summer of '93. (2) I have participated in trail maintenance. It's back breaking, tough work, all while being swarmed by black flies and mosquitos. I understand and appreciate the time required to build/maintain singletrack. (3) Slippery trails increase the risk of injury. I'm risk averse and will frequently walk any section I'm not into. This doesn't mean I'm unable to ride it, it just means the risk did not out weigh the reward on that particular occasion.
    I follow a pretty similar rule. It's also interesting at times to be caught in a heavy downpour while riding and you see how the trail actually handles that sort of thing. There have been a few times where I've ridden trails in a downpour like that where the water just flowed off or down the length of the trail, but never sat in any one place long enough to turn the trail muddy. At the end of such a ride, my bike might have a bunch of grit on it, but no mud accumulation.

    The worst for soils with lots of clay is freeze/thaw cycling. It's especially bad in cases where the freeze occurs at some depth, and only the surface begins to thaw during the day, so the moisture has nowhere to go. You get peanut butter mud, but it also has ice crystals in it, which makes the consistency even worse. Freeze/thaw is pretty deceptive, too, and if it's sunny, I've seen trails begin to thaw well into the 20's. IME, it's more dependent on the angle and intensity of the sun than on the ambient air temp.

    I used to live in East TX, and the soils on the trails closest to where I lived were almost entirely prehistoric beach sand. They rode much better after rain, when the moisture would help the sand to stick/pack and be more solid. If it was really dry, the sand would be very loose and less fun to ride in. The only spots that would ever get muddy would be low-lying areas near streams where you'd be below the sand. Some parts of Michigan are similarly sandy.

    A number of places I've ridden in the Southwest have areas with loose sand that ride better when damp as well as areas with heavy clay that gets nasty fast. Of course, anytime you're able to ride trails almost entirely on solid rock, you're in pretty good shape, and you can certainly find some of those places in the southwestern US. There's a bit of that not far from where I live, too.

  29. #29
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    Quote Originally Posted by plummet View Post
    Wow,
    For me it's too muddy when my wheels no longer go around.
    Quote Originally Posted by David R View Post
    Click image for larger version. 

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    Definitely area-dependant, but there's no such thing as "too wet" where I live.
    I definitely believe in these 2 rules as well, but only when I am riding the "trails" that we made up on my friend's dad's farm, or on the non-official trails in the woods in some of the parks that have been there since the 70's

    my bike looks like that through much of Feb, Mar and Apr due to the wet/thawing that we have.

    I would NEVER ride the public, official, maintained trails in conditions like that though...that is why we use the other ones.
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  30. #30
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    NE Ohio here.
    I am a trail monitor.

    "Wet" here does not mean "muddy". If it's just "wet", trails are open.

    If "muddy", you are likely leaving a rut on long sections of trail.

    Some trails have persistently soft sections. Some land managers have written these off as they will never get worse, no matter how many people slog through them, and they keep them open.
    Other land mgrs. will try to preserve the entire trail, which puts a little crimp in a lot of peoples' riding plans who would think the trail should be open.

    The fact that you are even asking means you are miles ahead of most people who could not care less.

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  31. #31
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    Quote Originally Posted by mack_turtle View Post
    riding wet, muddy trails in central Texas is an offense punishable by death. if you've not ridden here, you would not understand how bad it is. we have nothing you would call "top soil" or "loam." it's just rock and some dusty material that turns to a peanut butter like substance when wet. if you ride on this kind of dirt, any size tire sinks in an leaves a deep rut that hardens like concrete when it dries. it also sticks to your tires and cakes up your bike so badly that, if you try to ride it (I've done this once before I knew better), your bike weighs an extra 30 pounds and stops moving.

    it does not rain a ton here, so we all know to just wait 24-48 hours after a rain to touch the trails at all. some riders use post-rain events to do trail work or you stick to riding a one of the few places that drain better.
    This is true in my area, especially in the spring during freeze/thaw. If you leave a rut it will harden like concrete, which will have to be dug out. It will also cause more water to stand and create compounding problems and possibly leading to armoring, which they try to ride around.

  32. #32
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    Didn't read all the post but did a lot of rain riding in the Northeast. Virtually none of the trails were created/improved/maintained for mtb. Trails were rocky, rooty, gritty, but very rarely muddy. In the spring some trails would become streams in spots and you'd just ride through the water. Yeah, in a few spots there were ruts, but that was just part of the terrain and "features" you dealt with riding.
    What, me worry?

  33. #33
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    OP: This should be posted in your regional forum. It totally depends on where and what you're riding.

  34. #34
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    Quote Originally Posted by Outhouse View Post
    here in northern Ca [foothills] you ride regardless, most of the trails have been here 100+ years and we ride rain or shine.

    I think OP was fine to ride
    That's how it here in the Big Bear area. Except when it snown and the trails are covered. It's snowboard season then.
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    100% depends on where you live.... if unsure ask around the local bike shops..

    when I lived in the PNW ... pretty much never too wet to ride...

    here in SoCal it is apparently a war crime to ride in anything but nearly 100% dry conditions...

    in fairness if people ride in the wet here it makes ruts that dry like concrete.... so it does make sense... I guess.

  36. #36
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    Quote Originally Posted by plummet View Post
    Wow,
    For me it's too muddy when my wheels no longer go around.
    Quote Originally Posted by Lone Rager View Post
    Didn't read all the post but did a lot of rain riding in the Northeast. Virtually none of the trails were created/improved/maintained for mtb. Trails were rocky, rooty, gritty, but very rarely muddy. In the spring some trails would become streams in spots and you'd just ride through the water. Yeah, in a few spots there were ruts, but that was just part of the terrain and "features" you dealt with riding.
    yeah, it was pretty much like this growing up here in Central Ohio too, until the mid 2000's...this is still the "rule" for some of the unofficial trails
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  37. #37
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    There is a bigger problem, it's the same problem we run into with trail conflicts, the uneducated masses that are too selfish to ever look up any of the etiquette or rules. They just want to go out and ride, without any care of how it impacts the other trail users, environment or sport. I've ran into plenty of these that at least feign ignorance to the trails being closed or the damage they are creating, they seem to get the idea that the entire point of MTB is to go get muddy and they haven't got a clue as to the impact of their riding on the trail.
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  38. #38
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    Quote Originally Posted by Fishwiz View Post
    We got a little rain last night, but our trails are very rocky/gravely so they dry pretty well. That said, they are clearly marked to ride only when dry.

    Today I started out on my ride conscious that I may need to turn around if it was too muddy. I noticed I was picking up a little mud/dirt, but leaving essentially no track on the ground. See pictures of my tires.

    Later I saw a few other riders that shared my opinion that the conditions were dry enough. But what about next time when it's a little wetter.... Where is the threshold?

    Our trails are pretty low traffic so there are many normal days where I don't see anyone else, so I can't really use the judgement of others to guide me.

    Sent from my Pixel 3 XL using Tapatalk
    The hotpatch on the tire should be aligned with the valve stem.
    Ripping trails and tipping ales

  39. #39
    Self Appointed Judge&Jury
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    Several of my local trails systems get shut down according to conditions. Yes, itís a tough one to deal with but itís for the better of the sport. Not just biking but hiking and equestrian traffic have to wait unto it dries out and reopens. These trail systems are highly maintained and if they didnít do this the selfish would quickly ruin it for all.
    Quote Originally Posted by mileslong View Post
    I passionately remove rocks and corners and other stuff I find too hard to ride.

  40. #40
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    Quote Originally Posted by Vader View Post
    The hotpatch on the tire should be aligned with the valve stem.
    When you say "hotpatch", you mean the logo on the sidewall, right?

    I've heard that before but thought it was basically a cosmetic thing... Why is that important to align the valve stem in that way?

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  41. #41
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    Quote Originally Posted by Fishwiz View Post
    Why is that important to align the valve stem in that way?
    the same reason he matches his riding skirt with his purse...


  42. #42
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    How wet is too wet?

    Loaded question: I think all has been answered per topic.

    Anybody care to go there? Iím sure we could come up with some humorous yet borderline on appropriate replies.

    Give it your all:

    Floor is open.
    Quote Originally Posted by mileslong View Post
    I passionately remove rocks and corners and other stuff I find too hard to ride.

  43. #43
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    if you keep crashing, its too wet


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